AMPJP at Canon Law Society conference

30 September 2018 by

On 05/09/2018, Lawrie Hallinan, AMPJP Executive Officer, was at the conference of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand. He took the opportunity to thank the Society and its members for their assistance to ministerial PJPs. He said there was strong interest at the AMPJP forum in August 2018 to working with the Canon Law Society on formation for trustees.


At the Annual Dinner during the conference, Rodger Austin was presented with the Owen Oxenham Award for services to the Society and to the Church.


A new Executive Committee was elected at the Canon Law Society AGM during the conference:

  •             Mrs Sue Rivett, Director of the Adelaide Tribunal Office, South Australia
  •             Rev Tim Brennan MSC, Executive Officer for the National Committee for Professional Standards, based in Sydney
  •             Dr Rodger Austin, canonical consultant and Advocate, based in Sydney
  •             Rev Francis Poon, priest of the Diocese of Auckland, Judge of the National Tribunal of New Zealand
  •             Rev Ken Cafe ofm, parish of Thirroul NSW, Associate Judicial Vicar of the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Sydney

Ken Cafe ofm was elected as President of the Society.  The Executive Committee holds office until the 2021 Annual Conference.

The Executive Committee has appointed Mr Greg Isaac as Company Secretary of the Society. Greg is also the Society’s Finance Administrator;  he is the Financial Administrator of the Diocese of Lismore NSW.


A highlight of the conference was Sr Mary Wright’s paper “The Development of the Ministerial Public Juridic Person: questions and challenges” 


The paper was well received by the gathered canonists with much discussion during question time. The paper will be available once it is published by the Canon Law Society.


Lawrie said some of the interesting points that he learnt from the paper and the following discussion were:

  • The development of ministerial PJPs in USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland is not due to them being English speaking or developed countries. It is due to their legal systems being based on the common law system. The alternate European civil law system recognises church entities and allows them to own and govern schools, hospitals etc without the need for a new structure.
  • There is no central reference point or guidelines regarding the erection of ministerial PJPs except for those erected by the Apostolic See. This means we have no easy way of knowing how many ministerial PJPs were established by other Bishops across the world.
  • Canadian Religious Stewardship is a ministerial PJP established by the Apostolic See (CICLSAL) in 2010 to own and administer the property and, if necessary, conduct any remaining ministries of small religious institutes. Mary explained the possible broad scope of this ministerial PJP:

The organisation has also taken over the management of many communities and potentially, also their governance when/if the membership is finally unable to continue this responsibility.


Lawrie’s recollection of some issues in canon law related to ministerial PJPs:

  1. Competent authority – canon law says a competent authority can establish a ministerial PJP but does not specify which authority is the most appropriate for the nature/location of a particular ministerial PJP. There is an argument that the principle of subsidiarity would be promoted by some guidelines defining when the Apostolic See is the competent authority as distinct from the local Episcopal Conference or Diocesan Bishop (not withstanding concerns about them not having any central reference point or guidelines).
  2. Competent dicastery – The Apostolic See’s dicastery, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) is primarily responsible for Religious Institutes but has thus far been the section of the A See that has established ministerial PJPs.  There is an argument that the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life would be the more appropriate section of the Apostolic See to relate to ministerial PJPs.
  3. Responsibility of the Diocesan Bishop – Each Bishop the local bishop has the right to foster, coordinate and visit apostolic organisations in his diocese and to intervene if he becomes aware of abuses within his diocese. Mary asks: “The question arises whether the requirement for mutual consultation and warnings will apply to the chairpersons of ministerial PJPs in their dealings with bishops, as it now does for religious superiors in cc. 678 §3 and 683 §2.”
  4. Sponsorship – Many Religious Institutes maintain a role in their former ministries which are now a ministerial PJP via reserve powers, such as appointed of trustees.  As the members of these Religious Institutes within Australia continue to age many will eventually be unable to maintain this role. The sponsorship role could be taken up by: (1) the Religious Institute beyond Australia; (2) by others (lay, clergy, bishops) within Australia; or (3) the ministerial PJP could be self-governing (e.g. existing trustees could appoint new trustees as needed). The Apostolic See has given approval for two ministerial PJPs to be self-governing but has not granted this arrangement for many years. The arguments for and against the various options need exploring.
  5. Charism – The ministerial PJP has its own charism. While its ministries may have “inherited” the charism of one or more Religious Institutes, it needs to develop this charism(s) – discerning the call of the Holy Spirit in the particular circumstances in which it operates.


Lawrie also noted some challenges from what Mary Wright said about ministerial PJPs within the Australian context:

  1. Legal complexity of ministerial PJPs in Australia: (1) having both canonical and civil entities/responsibilities; (2) no consistency of structures or titles across Australian ministerial PJP (e.g., trustee, director, stewards, councillors etc); (3) recognising reserve powers where the boards need permission from Church authorities for certain decisions; and (4) maintaining clearly defined and respected boundaries in the roles of canonical trustees and corporate board.
  2. Boundary violations – where a Religious Institute retains too great a role in the ministerial PJP (too many reserve powers or assets or charism/mission identity). This can hinder the necessary development of the ministerial PJP and of the Religious Institute.
  3. Ethical practices and catholicity of both the ministerial PJP and of relationships it enters into with other corporate entities.  It is possible that the laity and bishops have more anxiety about lay trustees and executives being responsible for ethics and catholicity than they had when Religious governed these ministries.  This could make the lay trustees unnecessarily risk averse. The whole Church needs to work together on resolving these issues.
  4. Laity in Church governance – through ministerial PJPs the Church has included lay people in Church governance. This role must be supported with appropriate formation, resources and structures. Church governance as a whole, needs to include and engage with those responsible for ministerial PJPs as partners.